Excerpt: Unseen

Excerpt: Unseen

Book 5: Shaye Archer Series

Friday, December 18, 2015
The French Quarter, New Orleans

Madison Avery looked out the glass wall of her unlit penthouse apartment and across the city. It was an impressive view and an expensive one, but it had been worth every penny as far as Madison was concerned. The view from the floor below her was also excellent, and the unit had been listed for 20 percent less than what she’d paid for her penthouse, but being on the top floor meant no one was above her banging and knocking around. She could disappear in her retreat in the sky and be alone with her work and her thoughts.

Just the way she liked it.

The sun had set hours ago, and the night lights of the French Quarter created a glow of color over the city. Below, people bustled back and forth across streets and down sidewalks. Some were visiting and taking in all the culture and fun the city had to offer. Others lived in the city or one of the nearby suburbs and were shopping for gifts for the upcoming Christmas holiday. Many came into the city for the food alone. The incredible dining offerings were the one thing that consistently drew Madison out of her apartment.

Sure, she appreciated art as much as anyone, but she could see and order it online and look at it in her own apartment. Same with music. But not every restaurant delivered and even if they did, some things simply weren’t good unless experienced in person. Great food was one of them. Styrofoam containers and the time it took to deliver minimized the chefs’ efforts with loss of heat and flavor. Sauces didn’t pack the same punch. Meat wasn’t as tender.

So she forced herself out at least one night a week to a different restaurant and kept a list with ratings of them all. Seventy-eight weeks she’d lived in New Orleans. Tonight, she’d eaten at her seventy-eighth restaurant without a single repeat. And she was still nowhere near repeating herself. From tiny cafes to five-star restaurants, New Orleans was a mecca of eating pleasure.

A light flickered on in the building across the street and she looked down at the open windows of the empty apartment. Realtors had been showing it with regularity, and Madison figured that before long, she’d see furniture moving in and the blinds would be closed at night to allow for privacy. The tinted windows allowed people to see only shadows during the day, but at night, with the interior lights on, you were your own stage play.

Madison had expensive electric blinds installed before she’d moved in, but she didn’t use them often. Instead, she preferred to keep the lights off and sit in her favorite chair to watch the city unfold beneath her. Even better were the nights when electrical storms moved through the French Quarter, putting on a show better than any fireworks display she’d seen. Tonight, the weather was calm but the night lights of the city were bright and festive, especially with the addition of the Christmas decor. She’d changed into her comfortable pajamas as soon as she arrived home from dinner. Now all she needed was a glass of wine and she could curl up in her favorite chair and watch the live show in front of her before she dozed off to sleep.

She started to back away from the window when movement in the apartment across from her caught her eye. A man was opening the door for a woman, who stepped inside, then hesitated, glancing around. The apartment wasn’t nearly as nice as Madison’s, but the flooring had been updated and a fresh coat of paint had been applied.

She frowned, suddenly realizing that the only item in the apartment was a large blue square in the middle of the dining room floor. Why would someone put a rug in an otherwise empty apartment? Staging for sale required a lot more effort than that, and a better color selection. The bright blue clashed completely with the cherrywood cabinets in the kitchen behind it.

The man put his hand on the woman’s back and guided her from the entry, through the empty living room and into the dining area. As the woman stepped on the rug, the man raised his hand to the back of her neck and jabbed at her. The woman crumpled and fell onto the rug, then lay there motionless.

Madison sucked in a breath. It looked as if the man had stabbed the woman in the neck with something, causing her to collapse. Surely she was wrong. Maybe the woman had passed out and the man had attempted to help her steady her balance before she went down. The man bent over the woman and placed his hand on her neck.

Good. He’s checking for a pulse and will call for help.

He reached into his jacket and pulled something out, but it wasn’t a cell phone. It was a big, long knife. Even this far away, the glint from the blade was visible. Madison reached for her cell phone on the table next to her chair but grabbed the lighting remote instead. The overhead lights popped on, momentarily blinding her. She dropped the remote, grabbed her phone, and dialed 911. She looked up from her phone in time to see the man pull the knife across the woman’s throat. Blood spurted from the woman’s neck and Madison screamed in horror.

“911, what is your emergency?”

The operator’s voice seemed to boom from the cell phone, but Madison couldn’t speak. Her heart pounded in her chest as blood rushed to her head. She grabbed her chair to keep herself from falling, and the last thing she saw before she lost consciousness was the man in the other apartment, staring across the street directly at her.

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